NYC Bhatti Indian Grill Debuts Adventurous New Design and Menu

For Bhatti Indian Grill’s 10th anniversary, Gaurav Anand wanted the restaurant that set him on a successful restaurant career to get a sexier new look, more elevated menu and an adventurous beverage program, befitting the next decade. Being one of NYC’s preeminent Indian chefs and restaurateurs, Gaurav, of Awadh and Moti Mahal Delux, has completely revamped and renovated his first restaurant.

Bhatti Indian Grill Bhunney Aloo Ke Kulhey | Photo by Lily Brown

Perennially packed and attracting celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Food Network’s Duff Goldman, Bhatti became a popular dining destination due to its delicious, boldly-flavored food, especially kebabs, which always stood out among the generic menus of its Curry Hill neighbors.

Bhatti Indian Grill NYC
Bhatti Indian Grill interior | Photo by Lily Brown
Bhatti Indian Grill NYC
Bhatti Indian Grill Anjeer Malai Kofta | Photo by Lily Brown

To amp up the menu, Gaurav has collaborated with Chef Manoj Goel who worked for Taj Hotels and helmed Varq in New Delhi, which was rated one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. When it opened in 2009, Bhatti was the first NYC restaurant to focus on India’s kebab culture and the updated menu by Gaurav and Manoj will feature 21 kebas.

Some of the new items include:

  • The extra-spicy Bullet Kebab made with ghost chilies
  • Rajma Ki Galouti, a vegetarian (red bean) version of the famous Galouti kebab
  • Bhunney Aloo Ke Kulhey cheese-stuffed grilled potatoes
  • Kasondi Shrimp with mustard and curry leaf.
  • Large dishes include Aleppy Fish Curry, fish of the day simmered in coconut with curry leaves, green chilies and lime juice
  • Anjeer Malai Kofta, traditional Punjabi fig and mixed vegetable dumplings scented with rosewater that are often enjoyed on holidays
  • Meat Martaban, a slow cooked pickle-flavored lamb dish
  • Bhuna Gosht, goat meat cooked on the bone with garlic and ginger
  • Nizami Nalli, lamb shanks simmered in lamb stock with aromatic spices.

And now loyal followers and curious foodies alike will be surprised and delighted by the stylish new design with elegant black and gold accents, even bolder food, and an adventurous all natural wine list.

Bhatti Indian Grill NYC
Bhatti Indian Grill dumplings, butter chicken and white wine | Photo by Lily Brown
Bhatti Indian Grill Alleppey Fish Curry and wine | Photo by Lily Brown

In fact, Bhatti is the first Indian restaurant to have an all-natural wine list, curated by consulting natural wine sommelier Doreen Winkler (Aska, Aldea, Sel Rrose). Each wine on the all-European list has been chosen to balance the complex flavors and spicing of Bhatti’s food.

Natural wine menu highlights include:

  • Meinklang “Foam” Orange, a skin-contact lightly sparkling Pinot Gris from Burgenland, Austria
  • Creamy white Jean Perrier Cuvee Gastronomie made with the local Jacquere grape in Savoie, France;
  • An easy-drinking Italian rose and a Spanish tempranillo with blackberry and tobacco notes.

Bhatti fans familiar with the restaurant’s generous wine BYO policy will be happy to know that it will stay in place at just $5 per bottle (limit to 2 bottles or for larger parties 1 bottle per couple).

Bhatti Indian Grill NYC
Bhatti Indian Grill ​Alleppey fish curry | Photo by Lily Brown

Gaurav enlisted a premier design company, one of India’s best chefs and an up-and-coming sommelier to help him make Bhatti more exciting than ever. Crews worked round the clock to complete the renovation in just 3 days!

Bhatti Indian Grill NYC
Bhatti Indian Grill Exterior | Photo by Lily Brown

Design House Décor, a luxury event company founded by Azizan and Nauman Ali, was enlisted for the renovation and it is their first restaurant project. The intimate 40 seat space features all new furniture and an interior design that melds the modern and traditional with gold, black and pops ofgrey throughout the jewel-box like space.

Bhatti Indian Grill is located at 100 Lexington Ave., New York, NYC, 10016. For more information visit the restaurant’s website or call 212-683–4228.

RASA’s Indian Bowls Bring the ‘Essence of Enjoyment’ to DC

The rise of the fast casual trend in DC has been very welcome in our household for both our stomachs and our wallets. But there’s a new spot in town that’s about to turn the fast casual scene upside down – in the best way possible.

RASA is a “fine fast casual” restaurant located in our old Navy Yard stomping grounds, serving up a tantalizing selection of customizable Indian flavors. The concept is the brain child of Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman, who grew up in the restaurant industry. Ever since they were young, they’ve wanted to share the meals they grew up loving with people unfamiliar with Indian food and to broaden diners’ understanding of how expansive Indian cuisine really is. Their labor of love has finally come to fruition, and the results are outstanding.

RASA DC

The Space

RASA is a combination of Rahul and Sahil’s names, but is also a Sanskrit word that translates to “essence of enjoyment”. That enjoyment starts the moment you walk up to the gorgeous blue front door, custom-made in India, and swells as you walk into the vibrant, rainbow-hued dining room.

Rasa blue door

good luck symbol

local art at RASAThe colorful artwork was all painted by local artist Nandita Madan. I’ve been to a lot of fast casual restaurants, but never one this beautiful and fun.

RASA decor

RASA decor

RASA swing chairs

The Drinks

While grab and go is certainly an option at RASA, the welcoming space encourages diners to stay a while. And for that, you need a drink. There is a vast selection of teas and juices available, along with fresh young coconuts, beer and wine and – my favorite – a masala gin and tonic.

masala gin and tonic

The Bowls

Of course, the main event is the food and it does not disappoint. Rahul and Sahil have put a lot of thought and effort into creating their menu. In fact, they spent two weeks last Fall traveling across India looking for inspiration. As a result, the menu features both common flavors and ingredients along with those that are less known among Western diners.

The menu is divided into two sections. The “We Got You” section offers signature creations that take the guesswork out of ordering. The “You Got This” section allows you to create your own customized bowl.

Rasa bowlsTom and I dipped into both sections. He ordered the “Tikka Chance On Me” featuring chicken tikka, roasted tomato sauce, basmati rice, sautéed spinach, pickled radish, kachumber, toasted cumin yogurt, mint cilantro chutney and lentil crisps.

Tikka Chance on MeOne of the menu items I was most excited to try was the South Indian rice noodles. Most people (myself included) don’t realize that noodles are a part of Indian cuisine. I used them as the base for my customized bowl and added lamb kebab, peanut sesame sauce, charred eggplant, cucumber cubes, masala beets, mint cilantro chutney, mango coconut yogurt and micro greens.

Rasa You Got This bowlWe both loved our bowls, brimming with fresh veggies and incredible flavors. There are so many culinary discoveries waiting to be made at RASA. I can’t wait to taste my way through the rest of the menu. As is common with build-your-own menus, the options can be a little overwhelming. But I’m definitely up for the challenge.

The Sides + Sweets

The sides and sweets are tempting as well. We tasted the pumpkin soup, which is rich and comforting. The Kulfi pops (Indian ice cream pops) were a big hit, both delicious and fun to eat.

Kulfi pop - Indian ice creamIf you’re looking for a fun, delicious addition to your fast casual repertoire, get yourself to RASA stat. I have a feeling it’s about to become DC’s newest addiction – it’s definitely mine.

Austin Chicken Lollypop’s Harmonious Scents of Cosmopolitan Bombay

If you were walking through the streets of Bombay, also known as Mumbai, the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra, you’ll encounter a symphony of spices, vegetables, and meats with scents so harmonious that the air is as melodic as India’s contagious music. Our senses were transported to the popular food carts and restaurants of Bombay when we stopped at Austin’s only Indo-Chinese eatery, Chicken Lollypop. The hidden gem, tucked inside a Braker Lane food mart just east of Interstate 35 was opened by owner and Chef Immie Shaikh a little over a year ago.

It was only after spending a year perfecting the recipe for his popular flagship appetizer, the Chicken Lollypop, that Immie felt fit to introduce the city to its first taste of famous Indian Chinese food. Tender and smoky, the Chicken Lollypop is shallow-fried together with its aromatic marinade, a signature Shezwan sauce reminiscent of Bombay. “In India, and Bombay especially, Indo-Chinese cuisine is very popular” he explained. A native of the cosmopolitan Indian state, it was during his studies in Bombay that his ambition for establishing good food in generous portions took root before setting out for the United States to settle in Austin.

Chicken-Lollypop-austin indian chinese food

He’s always loved to cook and incorporates one key Indo-Chinese restaurant difference—incorporating fresh ingredients and investing several hours in preparation time to make his dishes a model of the cuisine. “The food carts in Bombay serve the best Indo-Chinese food because it’s fresh,” he said, comparing the popular alternative to restaurants which tend to buy ingredients in bulk. Immie’s recipe for his chicken lollypop alone calls for 16 hours in a four-process marinade before it’s ready to be cooked and served, a noble effort that won’t be found anywhere else.

Chicken-lollypop-austin6

“The green chutney is house-made and prepared from scratch early every morning before we open, and the vegetables are all chopped to order,” he said of the difference in his staple ingredients. From poplar naan wraps that start at $4.99 to fried rice and plated entrees, the menu features more than a dozen sizzling chicken, shrimp and vegetarian Indo-Chinese dishes that range from savory to spicy. Created with a perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables, the restaurant’s signature naan wraps were designed to satisfy his many lunch patrons through the work day.

Get notified of exclusive food events at Chicken Lollypop presented by MezzeCulture. Subscribe »

IMG_0915

“The naan wraps were invented in-house and are most definitive of Indo-Chinese culture,” Immie explained. “In India they eat a lot of spicy food and the mixture of spices are found in a lot of dishes, along with the chicken and naan bread.” Customers can expect the flavors of chutney, garlic, julienne carrots and fresh green beans in the all-in-one taste of Bombay that he is proud to deliver. His chicken Manchurian and Chili chicken fried rice dishes are also popular creations.

“For many a restaurant is a business, but here I wanted to have a small kitchen to be able to focus on the quality of the food and my guests,” he said of the restaurants hospitality, which has brought with it long standing relationships and a loyal following of Austinites hungry for the unique, fresh and satisfying cuisine. Four tables sit inside the eatery’s kitchen to serve dine-in guests together with its to-go patrons, who can hear the simmering and clanking sounds of each dish being freshly prepared.

FullSizeRender

He explained that when Chinese immigrants traveled to India and started to cook their native foods, the ingredients became married with Indian spices and flavors along with the influences of Indian chefs, and that’s where the diversity of Indian-Chinese or Indo-Chinese cuisine started in the country.

“In Bombay the cuisine is the best and that’s part of its popularity with tourists because the food culture is completely different there given its infrastructure and diversity,” he said, speaking of the city’s culture of inclusion. From Hindus to Muslims and Christians, everyone supports and celebrates with one another across their cultural experiences in Bombay, from disasters to festivals and cooking, culminating in a culture that’s surely as warm and generous as the food and hospitality you’ll find at Austin’s Chicken Lollypop.

What if, Like Bourdain, We Saw our City as a ‘Cultural Wellspring’

Surely I’m not the only one that loves to live vicariously through Anthony Bourdain’s worldwide travels and culinary adventures, especially through his recent stories on the CNN Show, “Parts Unknown,” which airs Sunday’s at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

This last episode really excited me though because he traveled to his native state of New Jersey for a taste of its hometown cultural experiences. The story included a stop for Italian-American fare at the landmark Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, which has been serving spaghetti and pizza for over 70 years.

“I’m here to feed my soul, the cultural wellspring that is New Jersey,” Bourdain said in his newest episode, and this is what really got me excited—references to local cultural experiences that can ignite curiosity, appreciation, value and hopefully love for what’s in our own backyard. And most importantly, for the unique people behind them so eager to share their heritage from abroad.

In one of his recent Tumblr posts, Bourdain references ‘Jersey Italian’ as being eternal to New Jersey culture. I had to Tweet back to the show about it when they featured the post—I’m not sure if it was seen, but that short reference to Italian heritage as part of the fabric of NJ culture spoke volumes to me.

@HelenCho @Bourdain @PartsUnknownCNN Amen at Jersey #Italian ‘eternal’; #cultural authenticity in our own backyard.

— MezzeCulture (@MezzeCulture) May 31, 2015

His brother Chris Bourdain said in this recent article in the New York Post “I remember we were trying Japanese food and Indian food long before anybody had ever thought of such things,” he recalled. “It’s just what our parents were. They appreciated those kinds of things.”

How cool is that? That before Tony traveled the world so that travelers could feel like locals, he grew up exploring the world locally in his own city. Can’t wait to learn more when Bourdain comes to Austin in July. I’ve already got my ticket to see his show on July 9th. Check out his 2015 Tour Anthony Bourdain: Close to the Bone.

Personally, I’m hoping to learn more about how I can encourage more Americans to become cultural enthusiasts—to encourage them to get to know the world through the genuine international people and places around them.

In a CNN article supporting the episode, “Don’t trash Jersey until you’ve traveled it,” Cindy Y. Rodriguez, Special to CNN, wrote of six places to check out in New Jersey for a taste of local culture—among them, where Jersey City for a diverse food tour, and West New York for what she dubs “some of the best Hispanic food in the tri-state area.”

This episode was raw and real, which I love about every episode. Thank you, Mr. Bourdain. A first-generation American myself, I truly believe that inspiring people to view their own backyard as a ‘cultural wellspring,’ could do wonders for enabling people to bridge cultural divides, span cultural distances, and even overcome common travel barriers (half of Americans don’t have passports).

That’s what the idea behind MezzeCulture was in 2015 and now what Mezze Weekly represents as a travel magazine—inspiring new cultural and international experiences to love locally, and beyond the pages of lovely guide books and the media, but by stepping outside your front door. By exploring authentic local destinations for international culture expressed through food, drink, music and more.

One day, I hope to add New Jersey and other US cities to the list, as well as their wonderfully authentic destinations, and the stories of the people behind them. But, for now we’re working on building that community of cultural enthusiasts and destinations in 6 other cities—what are your favorite local cultural activities near you?

(image is courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)